There are a few more photos and experiences I want to share, and since they didn’t quite fit in any of the above categories, I’m included them in this post, which is kind of a catch-all, et cetera, miscellaneous type dealie. There’s some good stuff in here, and I’m gonna start with one of my favorite moments of the whole week…
…getting up close and personal with SHARKS!
1) SHARKS! We went to the Sea Aquarium in Curacao. All in all, it was an okay aquarium (I’ve been to better). They had an okay dolphin show, and the sea lion show got rained out. But they had some fun touch tanks – we had the chance to pet stingrays, and pick up sea cucumbers and starfish, like this one:
But the best touch tank of all was the one with nurse sharks. Five-foot NURSE SHARKS! Nurse sharks are predators that hang out in shallow reefs and sand bars and, thanks to their vacuum-like throat cavity, suck up their prey (fish, crustaceans, stingrays), chew it, and swallow it. Even though they can grow to be 14 feet long, they’re not considered a threat to humans, although there have been documented attacks (mostly sharks defending themselves after dum-dum divers and snorkelers provoke or poke them).
The aquarium had a bunch of nurse sharks, and with the help of a guide, we were allowed to touch them. Here’s Camille – you can see how big the sharks are:
Soon it was my turn: I got to pet one along its back (the skin was leathery and tough), feel the air come out of its gills, and feel its floppy dorsal fin.
You have no idea how much I loved touching that shark. I’ve loved sharks my whole life, and I’ll watch any shark movie that’s made, no matter how terrible and cheesy. You may laugh, but I’m looking forward to both Two-Headed Shark Attack and Jersey Shore Shark Attack.
My aunt Mary and I got to feed one of the sharks – we were given a metal ring with a fish on it, and we lowered it into the water until one of the sharks approached, and in a hot second, slurped up the fish and went on its way. The guide got it all on video on my uncle’s underwater camera, but I’ve been unable to upload the footage (and I’ve been trying for two days, which is why this post is so delayed). If I can get it to work, I’ll share it with you.
2) Maho Beach, St. Maarten. We went to one of the most entertaining beaches ever in St. Maarten. It was a beautiful beach – not too big, and not too crowded:
What was unique about the beach was its location. It was directly across the street from the end of the St. Maarten airport runway.
Which meant that we got to sit on the beach and watch planes land, up close and personal. These are all real photographs – nothing’s been photoshopped:
Here’s Camille, Isabel and a plane:
And me, Isabel, and Mary… and a plane:
Even better than the planes landing were the planes that took off. When big ol’ jets take off, their thrusters are so powerful and so close that they would kick up sand and blow people and things into the water. People come from all over to see this happen, and the beach even puts up warning signs:
We saw a couple jets take off, including one that kicked up quite a sandstorm, but I wasn’t able to document it – thankfully, YouTube is full of Maho Beach videos, like this one. Check this out!
3) El Yunque Rain Forest. On the final day of the trip, I booked a tour of the El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico. I went by myself, because my family’s flight took off four or five hours before mine. It was a pleasant tour through a beautiful forest. We stopped at a gorgeous waterfall (this picture doesn’t do it justice):
The guide found some wild ginger, and plucked one of the flowers. I didn’t know the ginger plant had flowers, did you? Guess what it smelled like. Cumin! Haha, only kidding. It smelled like garlic.
Kidding again. It smelled like ginger. Duh.
4) Shopping. I didn’t pick up much in terms of souvenirs. I bought a couple bottles of fun and different foodstuffs in St. Maarten, which I’m sure I’ll blog about soon, and I also did a little clothes shopping. Our cruise had two formal nights, which I was woefully unprepared for. I had a pair of pants that would work, but no jacket, no fancy shirt, no shoes. I had a nice sweater that wouldn’t make me stand out like a sore thumb, but I really needed a nice shirt. If I had a nice shirt, I could tie it all together.
We stopped in St. Thomas before our first formal night, so shopping for a shirt and shoes became a priority. The shoes turned out to be an easy find, because guess what was in walking distance of our dock? A Payless. I found a pair of black loafers that I actually really like, and they were $25. Sold.
The shirt was a little harder, because downtown St. Thomas has mostly jewelry and souvenir stores. If you’re ever dangerously low on shot glasses or tanzanite, than St. Thomas is the place to be! But we did find the one clothing store with a men’s department that had dress shirts, and I tried a bunch on. There were a couple that fit great, but I didn’t love the color or pattern, and then there was this one, which was a little on the big side, but in a color I love. Plus, it was 50% off. So I paid $35, and voila! Something for formal night!
It occurred to me while shopping that had I been in this situation two years ago, I would have been royally screwed. Up shit creek without a paddle. I wouldn’t have fit into anything that store sold. What would I have done?
I borrowed ties from my uncle (different ones for each formal night, so I wasn’t wearing exactly the same thing both times), and while I still felt a little underdressed, I didn’t sweat it. Here I am with my cousin Olivia on the first formal night:
And all six of us on the second formal night, which was New Year’s Eve:
And that wraps up my 2012 cruise coverage! It was a tremendous trip, and one that I’ll remember for a long, long time. I’m so thankful that Philip and Mary invited me to join their family for the week – I was a blast hanging out with them and my cousins, and seeing a part of the world I’ve never seen before.
I have one final picture to share, taken on a beach in Curacao. Enjoy!